Singaporean Zookeeper Says Fires Made New Year’s Eve The Most Terrifying Day Of Her Life

While millions of people around the world were waiting to usher in a new decade, Australia was suffering from one of its worst bushfire crises ever.

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31-year-old Rachel Yeo, a Singaporean zookeeper at Mogo Wildlife Park in New South Wales, recounted “the most terrifying day of [her] life” on New Year’s Eve when she drove towards the fire to save the animals residing there.

Out-of-control bushfire in Mogo

According to Channel NewsAsia (CNA), emergency evacuation instructions had been issued by the fire authorities in the town of Mogo, as the massive bushfire threatened to “overwhelm the community”.

In spite of the warnings, Ms Yeo was determined to save the animals and reportedly rushed back to Mogo Wildlife Park. She said,

I had to make sure they were safe and that was just my priority.

The trip to the zoo was the “loneliest” drive of her life — everyone else was driving away from the fires.

At that time, Ms Yeo had joined the park for less than a month. However, she was determined to help the animals at the park, which she saw as family.

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Fire felt like a “monster”

Despite her bravery, the smoke and heat from the fire made Ms Yeo feel as if she’s bracing herself for a “monster”.

The zoo’s director Mr Chad Staples said “it was like Armageddon… [the sky] was black as midnight with tinges of red”.

The fires eventually took the lives of 2 people and destroyed over 176 houses in Mogo.

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No animals in Mogo Wildlife Park harmed

The zoo has about 200 animals, including monkeys, lions, rhinos and giraffes, many of which were too large or too dangerous to evacuate safely despite the staff’s best efforts.

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Miraculously, none of the animals was hurt in the fires, thanks to the staff’s valiant efforts.

Just as it was frightening for Ms Yeo, she shared that it must have been worse for the animals,

Every biological instinct tells you to run. I can only imagine what the animals were going through.

Park was “cornered” by fire

In total, the zoo is managed by 15 staff, including Ms Yeo, who steeled themselves to fight the fires.

When spot fires allegedly broke out due to embers carried by the wind, the brave staff helped extinguish them.

The staff of Mogo Wildlife Park
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Mr Staples added that the sheer impact and size of the fires exceeded his expectations, with the park being “cornered” by the fire.

Thankfully, the wind direction changed, putting an end to the frenzy.

S$92,486 raised for zoo

A GoFundMe page has also been set up to raise money for the zoo’s recovery. As of the time of this article, the crowdfunding page has raised a total of S$92,486 (AUD $99,423).

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If you would like to help, you can donate here. Please note that this is the only official GoFundMe page that is acknowledged by the zoo.

Kudos to the zookeepers for their love and dedication towards the animals.

We hope that the crisis will end soon and that the Australian communities affected will recover as well.

Featured image adapted from CNA and Facebook.